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The Bread of Heaven Come Down

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” (John 6:51). In John 6, Jesus Christ calls himself the “Living Bread.” It is interesting to me that Jesus identifies himself with such an ordinary image. After all, the doctrine of the incarnation is one of the most mysterious and complex confessions of the church. Bread, on the other hand,…well, ...

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Receiving Grace to Receive Grace

“No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me” (John 6:44) We Methodists speak a lot about prevenient grace. The Wesleyan concept of prevenience speaks of a divine grace that goes before us, leading us evermore into God’s righteousness. Too often we forget that the nativity story speaks very powerfully about God’s prevenient grace. God’s grace ...

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The Middle

“He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). It’s hard to make it through Advent without seeing the nativity scene in one of its many variations. It’s a beautiful scene. Mary and Joseph huddled close around the Christ child. Wise men, shepherds, and angels admiring from the periphery. Of course, the nativity scene ...

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Instruments of the Spirit

What’s the deal with angels and trumpets? I guess I’d never thought of it much before. A couple of weeks ago we began decorating our Christmas tree and I was struck by the number of ornaments and figurines we have that are trumpeting angels. All of a sudden it hit me: why do angels play trumpets? And why is the ...

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Making confirmation meaningful

(By Bryan Bliss) In my first year as a youth pastor, I was handed a dusty old curriculum that I’m fairly certain had been around when I went through confirmation myself. The pastor simply said, “Teach them what it means to be a Methodist.” I had nine months, not including holiday weekends, school vacations, or important nationally televised football games, ...

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First Friday in Advent: Going home

First Friday in Advent Luke 1:68-79; Malachi 3:13-18; Philippians 1:18b-26 “I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.” Philippians 1:23 When I was a kid in middle school, there was a old guy I’d see ...

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First Thursday in Advent: Finding hope

First Thursday in Advent Luke 1:68-79; Malachi 3:5-12; Philippians 1:12-18a “…my imprisonment is for Christ.” Philippians 1:13b I doubt I’ll ever have a brush with anything like real persecution. That reality makes it hard for me to fully feel what Paul is expressing here. I’m put off by minor inconveniences. I don’t like it when people drive slowly in front ...

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First Wednesday in Advent: Better to be feared or loved?

First Wednesday in Advent Psalm 90; Isaiah 1:24-31; Luke 11:29-32 I struggle with the Old Testament’s depiction of God as the bad guy in a gangster movie. I understand the sentiment. In pre-scientific culture, the world was enchanted. God was in everything—trees, the earth, animals, even behavior was attributed to God. The only way to make sense of the world ...

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Never. Stop. Learning.

This was the only advice I was given upon entering youth ministry: “Never. Stop. Learning.” Every year I have been in ministry it has remained true and I have no doubt that it will continue to. Continuing Education is an important aspect of our lives as ministers. We can never know it all, and always seeking to learn makes us ...

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